Banner, 'I'll breath after spring football'

Zach Banner

USC freshman Zach Banner is redshirting this year for the Trojan football team but says he wants to earn the opportunity to get on the court for the basketball team. Banner will suit up for the first time this season on January 3rd.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- There's no such thing as playing with someone his own size for Zach Banner.

At 6-foot-9 the offensive tackle towers over his teammates on the football field.

Move inside to the basketball court and the 335-pound forward outweighs his closest teammate by 100 pounds.

Banner, who is redshirting his freshman season for Coach Lane Kiffin, will also be suiting up for Coach Kevin O'Neill on the hardwood when the Trojan basketball team opens Pac-12 Conference play on January 3rd hosting Stanford.

"I'm really excited," Banner said about joining the basketball team. He's been practicing with them for several weeks but has been relegated to spectate the Trojans' 4-8 start this season. O'Neill is calling Banner "just a practice player," but Banner remains optimistic about his opportunity to see playing time, "I have the chance to earn it," he said.

A well-spoken true-freshman, Banner considers it a blessing to be a two-sport athlete at USC. "It's just something where god for sure is keeping me going," he explained. "It takes a lot of willpower instead of talent to do it."

A semester into his college career, he's facing the challenge of learning on the job how to juggle the two sports, academics, and finding the time to refuel for the rigorous routine. "It's just go back and forth back and forth, no sleep," he said while smiling. "It's all good though, it's worth it."

His football coach agrees, "I think it's really good for athletes to stay competitive," Kiffin said. "When you have a schedule and you're in a rhythm, you do better academically than with free time with college kids, so we're all about it."

As a freshman, his strength on the court is on the defensive end of the ball, "For the offense you go from high school and running about four sets a game and then you come out here with KO and he's got about 15-30," he said.

"It's not even an exaggeration," Banner continued, "that's the truth. When you come out here with the sets you've got to learn the offense, like I said the defensive side is a lot easier than the offensive side."

Kiffin says the skills Banner picks up in the gym will easily carry over to the football field when the time comes. "A lot of hand-eye coordination and what he has to do playing defense," he explained, "moving around, passing the ball, and what he has to do with his feet carries over, especially for offensive tackles."

As for one-day coming across a player his own size, well Banner doesn't expect that to happen any time soon. But he did say it's nice to look a few of his new teammates eye-to-eye, before starting to laugh, "When it comes to the size part, these guys feel me coming," he said. "They know for sure I'm out there and I like it when we joke around and they say I'm big."

Banner will travel to El Paso with the football team to participate in Sun Bowl practices and activities before returning immediately after the game to Los Angeles to join the basketball team.

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